How Are Your Stress Levels
Yesterday my carer, and long suffering partner, had her “knees done”. Full surgical knee replacements, both of them. Phew. This date with surgery had been hanging over us for four long weeks. We had both been, secretly and separately, counting it down. Neither wishing to upset the other. Then the hours and then the minutes until precisely at 6.40am we drove to the Hospital to arrive at the Admissions office at the appointed time.
Thirty minutes later my beloved was gowned, sanitized and settled on a comfortable chair to wait for a hospital bed to become available, that would signal her time had come. This turned out to be five hours late. Alarmingly close to its abandonment for such a long surgical procedure. Five hours of tricky cutting and pasting. Five long hours, with me popping in and out between my own opportunistic appointments.
We country folk rely on getting the most done in a single visit to town. But this was no ordinary visit however and I neglected to factor in that I was going to be in and out of town for the next 6 days, while she recuperated in hospital. The five hour surgical ordeal, which she would thankfully remember nothing of, all went according to plan and by 7.00pm, bright and bossy I followed her winding and weaving bed through the corridors back to her room in the surgical recovery ward.
“Tell me about your day?” she asked.
Not wanting to overshadow the trauma of “her day” and its relief with my triflings, but finding small conversation on remarking on the yellowness of her feet, the neat job they had made of her bandages, and the pleasant and efficient nurse assigned to her, I hesitatingly recounted my day.
After the successful early drop off at the Hospital:
At 7.45am I returned home to pick up my forgotten wallet. I would need it multiple times during the course of the day. I patted the Jack-Russels and reassured them I wouldn’t be too long! Took the 30 minute drive back to town. So far, so good. (save the wallet).
9.30am – arrived at the dentist to have a cracked molar seen to. It was urgent when I made the appointment and today seemed like a good time. I am armed with a question to the unfamiliar dentist: do they participate in the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme? http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/provider/medicare/initiatives/teen-dental.jsp Thanks to someone on the Forum for alerting me to this. “Well, no they don’t”, but she will see me anyway and work something out. I am first given a mouth x-ray on a state-of-the-art, x-ray machine. What are a few more x-rays to a Stage 4? In the chair after about thirty seconds of drilling and probing I am given my choices. “Root-canal or extract?” I am, sadly not prepared for this question, as my usual dentist, on the rare occasions, usually cuts and fills. The bog-it-up approach for those old back molars that nobody ever sees. My mind in a fleeting moment of clarity says walk-out-now-and-think-about-it; but is over-ridden by this-must-be-done, this-is-urgent and anyway ‘root canal’ sounds awfully expensive. What is a Stage 4 to do? I blurt out: “Pull it out”
9.55am – After numerous gum and lip numbing injections, it’s time for the pliers. Much pushing, pulling, wriggling and many twists later, in a moment of false levity I tell her she can put her foot on my chest if it helps her leverage. She replies: “You might be surprised at how many people suggest that”. This was to be my first and last joke. Then the “crack!.” I could see this was not going my way.
At 10.25am the Dentist tells me that she can recommend a good Oral Surgeon. Part of the root remains and is beyond the capacity of normal tooth extraction procedure, so it would seem. A little voice now says: maybe you should have said root-canal, an increasingly cheap looking option. I settle up, charged only for the x-ray. This is too make me happy? And I head back to the hospital to see how things are progressing.
10.40am – no progress. Still hours to go. One thing is predictable about hospitals, a nurse reminded me, nothing is!. I help my beloved pass the time “waiting for her bed” to arrive? I show her how to operate my tiny Mp3 player that I have loaded with lots of podcasts to amuse and enlighten her. She feigns some interest, but her noticeable lack of attention and distraction tells me I am wasting my time and I drift off before the full spiel is completed. Later she is fully informed on my podcasts and I stifle my prepared question of “did you remember how to turn it on?”
She remarks on the (funny?) coincidence that she is occupying the same chair that I waited in for eight hours for a fifteen minute procedure just last week. That was nothing compared with my first stent procedure that took four days of waiting with four days of fasting. Drips for food from midnight to 4pm and hospital sandwiches in between. Fortunately I had a carer to keep me from starving. Stage 4’s learn the meaning of patience to the zenth degree.
11.55am – I desert my favorite companion to make my appointment time with my GP. Alas she has been caught up in Melbourne traffic "and will return later. Would I like to reschedule for another day?”
“No, I wouldn’t!” I blurt out, with a nagging feeling that I am beginning to lose control of my day and my life generally.
“Come back at 1.20pm” she concedes, and back to the Hospital I go.
12.20pm Meanwhile, back at the Hospital it’s still a waiting game. While we wait I check my to-do list for my GP. At 1.20pm I am back at the Doctors office,
1.35 I had a few other problems that I thought I might share with my GP such as my lethargy, heightened tinnitus, dermatitis, continued tumour pain after my recent Radiation therapy, pain in my jaw from a tooth extracted that morning, and the fact that I now needed oral surgery to remove the broken root, plus the worry over the delay in getting a specialist opinion on my latest CT scan and generally, you know, feeling run-down. After venting my frustration over my ongoing problems with trying to change oncologists in mid-stream, I naively asked my GP; “Why don’t I feel well Doctor?”
She settled back in her chair and thoughtfully observed that;
my CEA marker is 83, my Inflammatory marker is 13, I am still recovering from my radiation therapy, I getting over a cold, I had a procedure to change my stent requiring general anesthesia six days before, I spent last Saturday in the Hospital ET with kidney pain, with a course of antibiotics on top of morphine and other miscellaneous drugs, my carer is presently having major knee surgery and will require me caring for her for the next six weeks on top of all the rest. “And you want to know why you’re not feeling well? Give me break”.
Strangely this wasn’t at all obvious to me at the time. I guess I was naturally a little delusional.
Well I didn’t think it could get any worse. Murphy’s Law had seemed to run it’s course*, and fortunately the second half of my Bad-hair-day brightened up from this point. The operation was a stunning success and as I said, the love of my life was wheeled bright and bossy back into a new world of straight legs with no pain.
Four weeks later she is making exemplary progress and soon I’ll have my carer back with a vengeance. Me, the day after the operation I turned a corner. The weight of the impending operation had played havoc with my health, and a few weeks later I have clawed back my health, my equanimity and with it, my peace of mind. Back to bird-watching.
Oh! And I sorted out my Oncologist problem, but that’s another story. And finally I had some amazing insights into ‘illness’, and that’s another blog.
*Every thing that can go wrong will go wrong!
He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.
~ Chinese Proverb
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.